Somehow, the morning passed, and after noon chow, we got a ride over to the air field, and where there when the World Airways 707 came in from Sidney via Darwin. Soon, we were aboard, and on our way to Australia! R and R was here!
The flight was uneventful, and we landed in Darwin somewhere around 2300 hours. We were told we would be there until 0300 because the Sidney Air Port was closed until 0600, and there was an agreement with the Air Port that the R&R flights would be the first in. I ran into my hoochmate, who reported he had a good flight from TSN. [ADMIN NOTE: 30 years later, I am not exactly sure of the flying time between Darwin and Sidney. It may have well be four hours; in any event we were there until we could take off, and land in Sidney at 0600!]
We went up to the lounge, and looking out the window, saw one of the most amazing sights of the whole year. There was a 707 bound for Da Nang, with what I was told was a load of Marines that had been there for three days. The marines were boarded with a Royal Australian, I want to say Air Force unit, but am no longer sure. Anyway, the plane was held in Darwin because of an engine problem, which had been fixed that day.
The Marines had had a ball being hosted by the Aussies, and great friendships had been made. The biggest problem was that there were half again as many troops trying to get on the plane. Seems that the extra personnel were Australian servicemen who had decided that they wanted to go to Nam to serve alongside their Marine buddies.
It wasn't a simple matter of separating the troops by uniform, because no one had on a complete uniform, and they had traded. Checking dog tags didn't work, because tags had been exchanged, too. A haggard, well hung over Marine Captain, who was on the flight was in the lounge. He had been on the phone to Da Nang explaining what had happened, and what was happening, and told me they had been trying to load for four hours.
As he said, it had been a drunk three days, and they were all hung over, and didn't want to be separated. It wasn't that the Americans didn't want to go back to Nam, it was that the Aussies wanted to go with them!
After watching, fascinated, for a couple of hours, I saw the group finally split up, the plane loaded, and take off. Don't know how the officials finally determined who went, and who stayed, but I suspect it had something to do with each man being forced to speak. Afterall, Australian English has its own distinct sound.
Oh, yeah! Notice the date? I am under 30 and a wake-up, and counting.
Someone told me if I waited any longer to go on R&R, I couldn't!